Restaurant Of The Week: Caia

Words by
Sophie Stoneham

31st August 2022

Notting Hill’s new neighbourhood restaurant is sensational - particularly if you are lucky enough to sit at the counter and order the monkfish direct from the grill

Caia whose name comes from the Roman Goddess of fire, is tucked away on Golborne Road W10 where most of Notting Hill’s creative set have migrated to, just off Portobello road. SPHERE was lucky enough to venture to this new neighbourhood favourite mid week in August and it was packed. It is not hard to see why.

The interiors are a camaïeu of warm earthy terracotta tones, with an open fire grill supervised by Toronto born Head Chef, Jessica Donovan (ex The Pem, Dinner by Heston) and the vibrant atmosphere enhanced by the music-loving owner and part time DJ with his eclectic soundsAs with all spectacles try and get front row seats, in this case the bar with amazing bar manager Alessio Minerva on hand to keep your thirst at bay, proffering fantastic oenological knowledge and dynamic suggestions.

A lot of thought was put in the wine list as Alessio mentioned: “There is no point in going out to drink what you can have at home”.  But, up first a couple of cocktails. The Garden Spritz is what you would imagine – gin based and delightfully fresh with summery lemongrass, cucumber, a splash of Antica Formula and a ginger kick – heaven! Something a little more autumnal is the Vida – concocted of Mezcal Blend, a touch of sweetness from the Graham’s 10yrs Tawny port, combining exquisitely with lemon and black tea to create a sumptuous smoky silkily smooth treat.

Sharing concepts can be hit or miss however as everything on the menu looked so delicious, it was definitely the way forward at Caia. To start and definitely not to be missed, whipped feta with black olive harissa and charred courgette, tahini, pickled onion with crudités accompanied with black pepper and garlic focaccia. These were matched by Alessio  with orange wine from RheinhessenGermany - Frei Koerper. Kultur Weiss (2020) a discovery and delight to tryThen the sugar snaps. Chef Downton, the genius has transformed an oft overlooked vegetable into an absolute revelation – the contrast of the salty crab on the sweet crunchy snaps, who would have thought. Luckily there was still some foccacia left to soak up the exquisite brown crab butter.

We could not resist one of their signatures – the monkfish and creamy sweet corn – so delicious and apparently so sought after Jessica was worried about supply meeting its future demand! Enough economics and on with the triumphal Caia. Next, a juicy, melt-in-your-mouth pork belly in BBQ sauce accompanied harmoniously with its sweet ‘n ‘sour pineapple salsa. Alessio, steered us towards something more local, a full bodied Sydney Street Syrah from the London Cru. The grapes are grown and flown from Cariñena in Spain and the wine created in Fulham 48 hours later.

By this stage we were beginning to feel thoroughly spoilt. Alessio encouraged us to dig deep and try their chocolate éclair with tonka bean Chantilly and cherries - one of the most delicate éclairs imaginable. Unusually light, expertly filled with Chantilly cream promoting its hints of vanilla and nut from the tonka beans, partnered so well the seasonal cherries, a perfect sweet conclusion to an exquisite feast.   

 After dinner, slope off downstairs for a digestif. The vibe is altogether different. The restaurant/bar becomes a bar/club (more Soho House than night club), a DJ will entertain you and on weekends it stays open a little later. Caia is to be discovered and definitely a worthy date night venue – exquisite, cool, quirky and trendy. This Goddess of Fire is bound to stir the senses.